More blessings

12 10 2012

My Wordlive reading has taken me back to Genesis, to the story of Joseph.  No wonder his brothers are jealous and hate him. (Check out his arrogant dreaming in Genesis 37). And his dad isn’t too clever either. Having a favourite son is never a recipe for happy families.

Jealousy and hatred lead to the brothers’ plot to get rid of the cocky little brother, and Joseph ends up exiled in Egypt. But it’s not all bad…

Joseph becomes a slave to Potiphar, one of the Pharaoh’s officials, and we read this unexpected sentence in the story – “The Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph” (Genesis 39:5). Here’s the arrogant dreamer transformed into a conduit of blessing.

Being God’s ambassador is not plain sailing as chapters 39-40 make clear.  It’s a roller coaster ride of prosperity, false accusations, imprisonment, responsibility, success and abandonment. But the accompanying refrain is, “The Lord was with Joseph”. That made all the difference – to Joseph and to those he lived amongst.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

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Can a leopard…?

12 10 2012

I am a leopard with selfish spots. By that I don’t mean “a few little bits of selfishness in an otherwise unblemished character”; I mean that selfishness is my character, my default position in life. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true.

I find it’s well nigh impossible to live out Jesus’ exhortation to –

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

I have little bursts of love, and then return to default.

A couple of years ago, I took up a challenge with some friends to see if there was anything we could do to change our “spottiness”, to live life closer to the ideals of Jesus. We were inspired by reading Mike Frost’s book Exiles, although we “made the idea our own”. Here is our version.

We took the word BELLS and used the initial letters to prompt different actions:

  • Bless
  • Eat
  • Listen
  • Learn
  • Sent

So in random order-

Listening and learning involved a God-ward focus – reading the Bible, praying, writing journals, blogging.

Eating?  Well, that’s obvious, except that twice a week we looked for opportunities to eat with people whom we might not otherwise have paid much attention to. “Eat” didn’t need to be cordon bleu, it might be a cup of coffee, but the intention was to focus on another person, spend time with them, make an effort to be a friend.

Sent is trickier to explain.  There’s something about tapping into God’s purpose for your life, seeing the different component parts as constituents of a greater whole. So, for example, instead of seeing work simply as a means to earn a living, seeing it as an opportunity to connect with people, to improve the physical environment, to be “sent” as God’s representative to the workplace. (Paul talks about this idea of sentness when he says that we are “ambassadors of God” – 2 Corinthians 5)

Bless presented me with the biggest challenge.  The word itself has something of the papal about it and if you Google “blessings” images  you will see why I have a problem with the word.  However, it is the first letter of the acrostic, so…

The agreement was that we would make at least two opportunities in the week to bless someone else, not the papal type of blessing, but something simple that would mean a lot to the person.  It might be an encouraging phone call, a card, a small gift, a smile to a stranger, a random act of kindness with no thought of payback. Nothing too demanding, but an intentionality about the action.

Now, I will digress a little via the dishwasher at my place of work.  No one at work likes to load or empty the dishwasher.  If it on already, dirty cups accumulate in the sink, despite the signs which request that people wash their own; if it finished, the clean cups remain in situ waiting, waiting…. you get the picture.  I decided that my “blessing” to the workplace would be to load/unload, wash up the extras/put away, even go round collecting the dirty cups, the ones with the engrained coffee dregs.  If it meant I had to stay after my shift was finished, that was OK because I had decided to do it.  If that meant I missed the bus, the walk would do me good.

Before you think how virtuous I am, I need to confess that it was often a struggle.  I saw the dirty cups and added mine to the pile…and had to make myself turn back and wash the lot. I saw that the dishwasher was finished and took a clean cup out for myself… and made myself keep going until it everything was put away. But bit by bit it became easier to give my time and to deal with the resentment about my colleagues’ untidiness. Spots were fading.

Why do I tell you all this?  I want to illustrate two things.  First of all, I was intentional. I signed up for the BELLS challenge and stuck to it, albeit reluctantly at times. I wanted to change, and I did something about it. Secondly, it had an unexpected effect.  Looking for opportunities to bless others helped move me from persistent selfishness. I found that I wanted to bring blessing to people’s lives, and more than the two times a week that I’d agreed.  Doing something led to becoming something; reaching out to others in a simple, ordinary way made me a better person. I challenge you to try it!

I wonder if this is the sort of partnership that Paul envisaged when he was writing to the followers of Jesus in Philippi –

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:12-13)  

We need to work hard at following… and allow God to work in us. Can a leopard…?

 

 

 





There is always hope

11 09 2011

Love this Banksy

One of the challenges of reading Old Testament prophecy is that it often dots about.  (Not a problem if you have a “dotty” thought pattern!) One minute Micah is talking of impending judgement, the next he is talking about God’s blessings for his people:

  • he gives a depressing catalogue of crimes, followed by a fleeting ray of hope (2:12-13)
  • he describes corrupt and cruel leaders and then counters with the chosen king from Bethlehem (5:2-5)
  • the people will be judged, but there will be a remnant who will remain true (5:7-8)
  • society may be in disarray, but God will win through for his people (7:9ff)

In God’s economy, there is always hope and the appropriate response is one of worship:

“Where is the god who can compare with you—
   wiping the slate clean of guilt,
Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear,
   to the past sins of your purged and precious people?
You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long,
   for mercy is your specialty. That’s what you love most.
And compassion is on its way to us.
   You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing.
You’ll sink our sins
   to the bottom of the ocean.
You’ll stay true to your word to Father Jacob
   and continue the compassion you showed Grandfather Abraham—
Everything you promised our ancestors
   from a long time ago.”  (Micah 7:18-20 The Message)

Buy it here








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